Thursday, 15 September 2016

Armenia’s Angels in the UCA

Written by Shane Gillard

Members of the Australian Armenian community, civic and religious leaders all came together at St Stephen’s Uniting Church in Sydney this week, to pay tribute to the Australian humanitarians who provided vital support to survivors of the Armenian Genocide. 

The event was both a book launch and an emotional acknowledgement of the lifesaving work of the UCA’s predecessor church members.

In a profoundly moving ceremony, descendants of the Australians who supported the Australian-run orphanage set up in Lebanon in 1923 were called up on stage and thanked by the descendants of the people their ancestors helped save.

The ceremony, which included presentations of framed photos to the Australian descendants, was preceded by a slideshow by Vicken Babkenian, the co-author of Armenia, Australia and the Great Warexplaining the Armenian Genocide and the personal stories of those involved.

The links between St. Stephen’s and humanitarian assistance to Armenians run deep.

The Church’s Ferguson Hall is named after Rev. John Ferguson who established the Armenian Relief Fund in 1915. His great granddaughter and Church Council member Margaret Warden was one of those honoured.

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The event flowed out of last year’s resolution by the 14th Assembly to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan used the occasion to call again on the Federal Government to recognise the Armenian Genocide.

“Both the New South Wales and South Australian Parliaments have recognised the Armenian Genocide, so it’s time for the Federal Government to do likewise,” said Mr McMillan.

“I call on you to join many other Parliaments of the world in recognising, remembering and opposing all inhumane treatment of sisters and brothers in Christ.”

NSW/ACT Synod General Secretary Rev. Dr Andrew Williams in his closing remarks suggested we rewrite the history in our textbooks to reflect the true story of the Armenian people.

“The time is long overdue for people of goodwill to speak up and say that beyond any reasonable doubt, genocide as defined by international law describes the process which one million Armenians lost their lives from 1915,” he said.

After the event, Rev. Dr Williams made an amazing discovery of his own. When he started to read about Rev. James Creswell’s journey through the Middle East, it dawned on him that Rev. Cresswell was in fact his great uncle.

The event was broadcast live and can now be watched in full: Tribute to Australian Humanitarians. SBS World News is also preparing a program on the event that will be online at SBS On Demand.

Armenia, Australia and the Great War by Vicken Babkenian and Peter Stanley is available for purchase at $34.99 from good booksellers.